A CHANGED HEART

A changed heart led to a changed mind, and ultimately, a changed life. In 1970 I was an angry feminist. I recall a heated exchange in a college classroom with a man who argued against legalizing abortion. In those days, I prided myself in having a black-belt in verbal Karate. I pulled out all the stops as I passionately peppered my argument with F-bombs and lobbed them straight at him. Two years later, I experienced a change of heart…and a change of mind. It began with a step of faith. I had screwed up my life with poor choices. I prayed to God to forgive me and asked Jesus to be my Savior. I had an idea that some of my convictions wouldn’t fly with God, so I challenged Him to convince me otherwise. A short time later, I stopped mid-sentence during a discussion with a friend. I asked myself, “When did I start believing that?” I honestly wasn’t aware of changing my mind on the subject. No one handed me a list of “Do this” or “Think that,” since becoming a Christian. I experienced what 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Before my change of heart, no argument could have changed my mind about some of the beliefs I clung to. In her book, What Do I Know About My God? Mardi Collier quotes Dr. Amy Nicely: “You do what you do, and you say what you say, because you think what you think.” Mardi’s husband Ken took it a step further; he said, “You do what you do, and you say what you say, because you think what you think; and you think what you think, because you believe what you believe about God, His Word, and yourself.” It’s great to have God-given convictions, but then what? In 1981, I found a way to live out my convictions. As a young mom with children ages 1- and 3-years old, I joined with a handful of others to form Pregnancy Services of Houghton County, now, Life Outreach Center (LOC). We offered practical services and compassionate emotional support to women facing crisis pregnancies in our college town. We also reached out to women suffering from post-abortion syndrome (PAS). For the next 9-years, I volunteered as director, hot-line volunteer, the speaker’s bureau, and volunteer trainer. My passion was fueled by my heart breaking for the things that breaks God’s heart. Also, I had an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 19. I chose adoption, but I understand how panic can cause a woman to opt for what seems an easy way out. In my years as an Addictions Counselor, I helped many women find healing from abortion’s aftermath. A changed heart led to a changed mind, and ultimately, a changed life. Today’s thoughts were the result of commemorating Sanctity of Life Sunday and Martin Luther King Day. There is a place for arguing a pro-life stance – and I am truly grateful for those who fight that battle. Martin Luther King rallied the masses to march, but he exhorted them to do it peacefully. When he resorted to words, they were eloquent words of reconciliation, not accusation and retribution. In these days of bitter political debates, we would do well to heed Martin Luther King’s words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I have hung up my black belt in verbal Karate. These days, my desire is that my words and my life demonstrate the light and love of Jesus. He is still in the business of changing hearts and minds. Only He can make a lasting change in a life. Today’s Challenge: Ask God to show you a way to live out your convictions.Let your words be seasoned with grace, and may you love in spirit and in deed. Let the light and love of Jesus shine through you....

CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK LOVER

I confess: I am a book lover. My love affair with words and paper goes back to the 1st grade where I learned to read. My mother wisely nurtured my interest with subscriptions to Little Lulu comic books and Jack & Jill magazine. Years later I devoured The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden series. In the 9th grade my English teacher handed out a Recommended Reading List to those of us who planned to attend college. I tackled the list with a holy fervor, and found great satisfaction in having most of the classics read and crossed off the list by the end of my senior year. I learned to love a good read. My vacations are typically trips to visit my family and to see my grand-kids. They are also book-buying trips. My family knows my love language – they frequently give me gift cards to my favorite bookstores for birthdays and Christmas. I have collections of books by my favorite authors, ones that most impacted my life and spiritual journey. If they write it – I will read it. A prized find this Christmas was Ken Gire’s first book in years, Relentless Pursuit. I read it cover-to-cover in a matter of days. Another purchase with this year’s Christmas gift card was the One Impact Bible (Zondervan). I will read it from cover-to-cover by the end of 2013.  It contains 300 devotions that remind us: “There is One God. You are One Person. You have One Impact.” By the time I read the third devotion, I was encouraged by God’s personal message of hope for me. That’s what happens when we read God’s Word – He shows up! I have read the Bible from cover-to-cover each year for the past two decades. To keep it fresh, I use different translations. Last year I challenged myself to read the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible, complete with study notes. I’ve used the One Year Bible and the One Year Chronological Bible. Eugene Peterson’s The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, thrilled my heart so, that I gave many copies as gifts one year. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, good for you! I’m lucky if I can read the cereal box without interruption in the morning!” Believe me, I remember the day! My habit of daily Bible reading was blown out of the water when my first baby was born. It wasn’t until two years after the birth of my second child that I was able to re-establish anything like a regular time in God’s Word. I don’t know how much time you spend reading His Word, but I do know God will honor whatever time you give to Him. It is my conviction that God allows us to be more productive with the time we have left in our day, after we’ve taken time with Him. Just think: The Author of the Book promises to show up if we take just one step toward drawing closer to Him: Say a quiet ‘yes’ to God and he’ll be there in no time (James 4:8 The Message). Happy reading in 2013! Today’s challenge: Say a quiet ‘yes’ to God by committing to read His Word on a regular basis. Be realistic re: your goal. Start small. I guarantee you will want to take more time with Him as your hear Him speak words of love and hope to your heart....

WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE?

I am weary of seeing our heroes fall, aren’t you? This week’s scandal: The director of the CIA, General David Petraeus resigned abruptly after admitting to an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. It gets worse… The investigation uncovered apparently inappropriate behavior by the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.  He sent 20 -30,000 pages of emails to Jill Kelly, a woman at the center of the Petraeus scandal. His resignation is likely. Could it get any worse? Yes, it does… The FBI agent who uncovered the Petraeus affair was removed from the investigation due to the shirtless photos of himself he sent to Kelly in emails. Really?  It would almost be laughable if it weren’t such a tragic statement of the state of affairs (no pun intended) of some of our country’s top leaders. There is added intrigue as these scandals are just parts of a larger story. Hearings will be held this week to hopefully determine what happened in the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi: Who in the Administration knew what, when? Was information about the attack and the Petraeus scandal withheld until after the election for political gain? It’s a story that is as old as the hills. King Solomon once remarked, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV). Heroes come; heroes fall, ad infinitum. Yesterday I posted on Facebook, “I am weary of watching heroes fall.” My friend Jennifer commented, “We have one Hero who will never fall or fail.” As “Breaking News Alerts” continue to flash on our TV screens, today is a good day to remind each other that Jesus Christ is the only One Who will never fail us. Never. Ever. It’s time we stop looking for little messiahs in our leaders, political and otherwise. The Messiah has come, and He will return. He alone is faithful and true. He alone is worthy of praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! If you are weary of seeing our heroes fall, listen to this Good News: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). P.S. Will you join me in praying for Billy Graham as he dedicates this next year to calling our nation to repentance and to everlasting hope in Jesus Christ? Click on link: “A Fresh Vision For America.”      ...

WEATHERING THE STORMS OF LIFE

All eyes are riveted on images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation as news feed comes in this morning. It will take weeks and months to realize the full scope of this super-storm and its impact on the East coast and our nation. There will be many stories of amazing survival, heroic rescues, as well as tragic loss of life and property. As a nation, we have been caught up in a political storm that has raged for months. With the presidential election just days away, that storm was reaching its full fury when Sandy blew into town.  As epic disasters do, it will remind us for a little while that no matter what our political bent, we are all Americans first. I believe we will rise to the occasion, put our differences aside, and do what we can to help those in need. The National Guard is on the scene. The Coast Guard pulled off a daring rescue at sea. Convoys of ambulances arrived from other states. In days ahead, volunteer teams will join the efforts of organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Samaritan’s Purse to lend a helping hand. Many will step up to the plate with financial donations and prayers to back up the boots on the ground. Our efforts will communicate to traumatized people, “You are not alone. We’ve got your back. Everything will be all right.” We may not all go through a monster storm like Hurricane Sandy, but we will all face the storms of life, sooner or later. When that happens, friends, family, and sometimes, even strangers, will come along side us, and with their words and other expressions of compassion, assure us, “We’re in this with you. Everything will be all right.” I desperately needed that assurance in 1991, when my husband, Jon was hospitalized with a second round of acute lymphocytic leukemia. When I called our pastor, Steve, with the news, he said, “We’re going to stand with you through this.” I heard, “It’s going to be all right.” Jon died four months later. I was left to single-parent our two young teenage daughters. The Body of Christ – other believers – became “God-with-skin-on” to me: The first Christmas after Jon died, Steve took my girls to find a tree, something their dad traditionally did. Friends included us in their holiday celebrations. There was always a listening ear available when I needed it. Men from church showed up at my house with tool boxes whenever repairs were needed. I received enough cards of encouragement to fill a Hallmark store. With the help of God, friends, and family, I weathered my personal “Perfect Storm.”  Just as the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and Joplin, MO took time after their storms, it took time to heal the wounds of my broken heart. There have been other lesser storms in my life, but through each one, God faithfully provided the people and means needed to make it through. I have come out on the other side, stronger in many ways. Though life is not fair in many ways, I can say, “God is good – all the time.” Life can be hard. We need to stick together. Let’s be God-with-skin-on for each other. Certainly, we can do that for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, but let’s also ask God to open our eyes and hearts to those struggling around us. We are the hands and feet of Christ. Whether it is by a simple phone call, card, kind word or thoughtful deed, let us share the hope that is ours: God loves us; He will give us what we need, when we need it. Everything is going to be all right. NOTE: I am available for speaking at your next women’s ministry event. I would love to share my presentation, “Staying Firmly Anchored In The Storms Of Life.” Learn how to prepare for the storms of life, how to know peace in the midst of them, and how to pick up the pieces and press on after the storm has passed. Contact me at...

THE LAST DAYS…

The Last Days are here…the 2012 Presidential Election will soon be history. Hallelujah! To be sure, the bickering won’t stop with the election results; no matter who wins the votes, the opposition will second-guess and criticize for the next four years. Although I vote in every election, I confess I do not put my faith in any one political party or candidate to solve the complicated problems we face. If I wake up on November 6th to find that the “other guy” won, my hope for America and the future will not be shaken. The psalmist David had the same confidence as I profess: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). Call me crazy, but I’m putting my trust in the LORD God Almighty to see me through what ails our country and what may personally befall me. Does that mean I don’t think it matters who is elected? Yes and no. What it means is that no matter who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, God is still on His throne and sovereign over all. Leaders rise up and fall under God’s watchful eye. While many of them do not govern according to God’s will, ultimately, God’s purposes will be accomplished –unwittingly by them, and even in spite of them. God’s main purpose is that people would know Him. When Pharaoh refused to free the Hebrews from their bondage, Moses delivered this message to him from God: I will send the full force of my plagues upon you and your officials and your people, so that you may know there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose… (Exodus 9:13-16). Daniel respectfully served King Nebuchadnezzar, but he knew Who was really in charge: He prayed, “Praise be to the name of God forever and ever… he sets up kings and deposes them” (Dan. 2:20, 21). “He sets up kings and deposes them…” Could that still be true today? The early church was persecuted by the mad emperor Nero, yet the apostle Paul urged fellow believers “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). There is a bigger plan, a bigger story than just who wins the presidency of the United States. Scripture tells us we are living in the last days – days that will culminate with Christ’s return to this earth.  The big question will not be “Did you vote for Barak Obama or Mitt Romney?” The question will be, “Did you choose Jesus?” As believers, let our speech be so seasoned with grace that our political stances do not drown out the gospel. May we respect the office of the President, and be faithful to pray for him (Consider joining the Presidential Prayer Team). Be sure to vote, but please, also get down on your knees for this election and for the future and direction of our country…We are in the Last...

CHOOSING A LEGACY

What determines a person’s destiny, and ultimately their legacy? Mark Batterson, Pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and author of The Circle Maker wrote, “Destiny is not a mystery. For better or worse, your destiny is the result of your daily decisions and defining decisions. Those daily decisions add up…We only make a few defining decisions in life, and then we spend the rest of our lives managing them. ” I was reminded of Batterson’s words this morning as I watched a news article about Thomas Kinkade. The famous “Painter of Light” died April 4, 2012 at age 54. An autopsy determined that he died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium.  A battle now rages between his mistress and his estranged wife over his estate, estimated at over $60-million. The reporter asked, “Is this his legacy?” A legacy is more than the financial assets we leave behind. A legacy is the ripple-effect of the decisions we make in our lifetime that impact our family and the rest of the world. Part of the legacy I will leave for my children and grandchildren is the result of the decision I made in 1972 to abstain from alcohol as the result of my commitment to Christ. I made a lot of poor decisions regarding alcohol and other drugs in my youth. My parents modeled responsible drinking; I had no indication that alcohol would be a problem for me. Taking my first drink of alcohol on the night of my high school graduation was a defining decision – I became an alcoholic during my college years. Alcohol impairs the frontal lobe of the brain, home to our decision-making. My decision to abuse alcohol led to numerous consequences as the result of impaired judgment: expulsion from college, date rape, and an unplanned pregnancy at age 19. Later, my husband Jon’s and my substance abuse was the main source of conflict in our marriage. When we accepted Christ, we decided that alcohol would no longer be a part of our lives. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. Both of Jon’s parents were alcoholics; they found recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous when Jon was in high school. At his dad’s funeral, several men told Jon, “Your father was my AA sponsor; I owe him my life.” What a legacy. I understand that as Christians we have freedom from the laws that say, “Don’t eat this or drink that.” I get it. I also know I am not objective when it comes to alcohol. I worked as a Certified Addictions Counselor for 12 years. I saw doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, university professors, and Christians whose lives were in shambles because somewhere along the line they made the decision to drink alcohol. Not everyone who drinks becomes alcoholic, but alcohol is potentially addicting to anyone who picks up the first drink. In the general population, 1-in-10 people who drink will become alcoholic. If a person has an alcoholic in their family, they have a 3-4 times greater risk of becoming addicted. I presented high school assemblies on the risks associated with alcohol; I asked, “Would you hold a gun to your head and pull the trigger if you knew you had a 1-in-10 chance of getting the bullet? How about if you had 3 or 4 chances out of 10?” Drinking is like playing Russian roulette with addiction. We cannot predict who will get the “bullet.” Thomas Kinkade never planned to tarnish his legacy or break the hearts of his wife and children, but an everyday decision – to drink alcohol – became a defining decision. While the world is richer for his “Paintings of Light,” his family is left with a painful legacy that they will spend the rest of their lives sorting out. No matter what your risk factors are, alcoholism is completely preventable – just make a decision to not drink or to quit drinking. I have never known anyone to regret it. Your destiny, and ultimately, your legacy, may depend on the decisions you make today regarding alcohol. Please choose wisely.              ...